Where Persecution Comes From
Whereas most persecution of Christians in the Arab Gulf region comes from society or radical Islamic groups, the main threat for believers in Iran comes from the government. The Iranian regime declares the country to be a Shia Islamic State and is constantly expanding its influence. Hardliners within the regime are vehemently opposed to Christianity, and create severe problems for Christians, particularly converts from Islam. Christians and other minorities are seen as threats to this end, and are persecuted as a result. Iranian society as a whole is more tolerant than their leadership, thanks in part due to the influence of moderate and mystical Sufi Islam.
How Christians are Suffering
While the government is anti-Christian, it does grant some limited freedoms to historical Christian churches. They are allowed to preach to fellow countrymen in their own language but are forbidden from ministering to people from Muslim backgrounds. Members of these historical churches are treated as second-class citizens, and they have reported imprisonment, physical abuse, harassment and discrimination, particularly for reaching out to Muslims. Converts from Islam and non-traditional Christian denominations (including Evangelical, Baptist and Pentecostal communities) experience the worst of the persecution. Leaders and church members have been arrested and imprisoned long-term for “crimes against the national security.”
During the WWL 2018 reporting period, at least 52 Christians were arrested. Many of them (especially converts) have been prosecuted and sentenced to long jail terms. Others are still awaiting trial. Their families are publicly humiliated.
In the same reporting period, several house churches were raided, most of which are no longer functioning.
Two reported incidents involved converts persecuted for their faith. One Christian was beaten by his cousin for his conversion. The other convert had to give up payment for his work when his clients threatened to report his conversion to authorities.
Pray for Iran
- The main persecution engine in Iran is Islamic oppression. Nearly all churches that held services in Farsi have been closed in recent years, and their leaders arrested. Pray for Christians in Iran’s prisons to have genuine love for their guards and fellow inmates.
- Shia Islam is the official religion in Iran. All laws must be consistent with the official interpretation of Sharia law. Any Muslim who leaves Islam faces the death penalty, although the authorities haven’t acted on this law in recent years. Pray that the laws will change, allowing for freedom of religion.
- For a Muslim family, it is a great disgrace when one of its members leaves Islam. Pray for Christians who have been cursed and disowned by their families for their faith.
Stories from Iran
During the duration of the Winter Olympics, remember to pray for Christians from countries on the World Watch List. + READ MORE
Throughout the world, 2017 was a difficult, yet also hopeful, year for the persecuted church. Take some time to look… + READ MORE
For persecuted Christians around the world, Christmas brings increased persecution and requires greater caution. + READ MORE